Wednesday, April 26, 2017

My Life in Film Part 1: 1985-1989

Hello once again my dearies. There have been a few neat changes in my neck of the woods. I among several others have a whole new work schedule which so far is not only making me significantly happier, but also restoring my productivity. It's creepy how much more one can accomplish when they don't need to jack their natural sleep schedule outta whack every weekend. What this means for you all is my butt is working on a wave of new articles for here and elsewhere.
Today I'd like to start up a limited series of posts based on the “my life in film” challenge. I first encountered this years ago on The basics of the project are pretty simple. Look at every year of your life and figure out your favorite film per year. Ties are allowed in special situations but it's best to aim for one above all others.
The notion of picking a favorite flick for every year of life sounds easy, right? You'd be amazed at the range of difficulty that comes with this undertaking. Some years are nice and easy with a huge personal favorite standing out above the pack. Other years require a fine toothed comb just to find a movie you simply enjoy. Possibly the worst are those special years with tons of classics all competing for attention. Thankfully through the course of study it's easy to come across cool flicks you might have missed. With the rules outta the way let's take a look at the first five years of my life in film.

1985: Honestly......a little bit of everything but probably Silver Bullet.

Rather fittingly for the year of my birth, 1985 practically stands as a love letter to my kind of cinema. There's a crazy number of little favorites from throughout the year in damn near every genre. Classic cheesy 80s action titles like Commando, Cobra, and American Ninja. Timeless horror tales like Return of the Living Dead, Fright Night, Dawn of the Dead, Re-Animator, and Lifeforce. If you're in the comedy mood there's Clue and Real Genius, not to mention Back to the Future. There's even a few gorgeous fantasy stories like Legend and Ladyhawke.
Before starting this series I thought of making a single post about the scope of 1985. Looking at that list of titles above reveals so much of what mattered to me as a child such as musclebound action stars, gory creature features, and wild ideas. Essentially the whole year shaped my views of what entertainment should be which means picking a top dog is an almost impossible task. I mean ties are allowed but some kind of 10-way tie is clearly going overboard.
Of all the big and little classics of the year the one that I come back to more than any other is strangely, Silver Bullet. Yeah I'm talking about the Corey Haim, Gary Busey small town werewolf movie based off a Stephen King novella originally intended as a calendar. Seems like an odd pick given the range of movies available for me to choose from, doesn't it?
For the longest time I couldn't quite explain why this movie matters so much to me. There's certainly better stuff out there to watch. I think the real reason it has stuck with me for so long is that I've always been able to personally relate with the tale in some way or another. As a kid that would be looking at Marty as another kid who doesn't quite fit into regular life (it's the way ya feel growing up as a home schooled night owl with very few friends). As an adult I get to see myself as Red, a guy who does his parenting as an uncle and suffers from trouble with the ladies. Combine that with small time charm and a variety of odd side characters and it all starts to feel like home. Beyond that, this was a Monstervision favorite of mine growing up. A constant source of comfort, sort of like a baby blanket in movie form. Very fitting for the first entry on this list.

1986: Tie between Blue Velvet and Big Trouble in Little China.

Maybe it seems cheap to proclaim a tie so early in the list but in this case I really have no choice. Like 85 before it, 1986 has a fine selection of favorite flicks like Ferris Bueller, Jason Lives, and Highlander, but above and beyond all those are essentially my two favorite films of all time.
Big trouble in Little China has the nostalgia advantage as it was another tale I watched countless times on television. Every single element of this movie just works for me. I love Kurt Russel in the role of Jack Burton, a bullheaded, arrogant trucker. I love his buddy Wang as a lighthearted romantic warrior. Lo-Pan is a perfect villainous blend of sinister and sarcastic. It's pure entertainment through and through. It's hard to imagine something else competing so strongly for my affection, let alone in the same year.

I didn't see Blue Velvet until I was probably sixteen or so. I'd seen and enjoyed David Lynch's work before so the chance of catching this one Encore or something similar was impossible to pass up. From frame one I was hooked. The small town full of mysteries, the positively wacko characters, and possibly the best damn villain ever put to the screen.
While both movies are completely different in tone and style, they each illustrate a huge portion of my world view. I adore adventure, interesting personalities, secrets just below the surface of normal society. I've always held a fascination for outlandish concepts along with harsh and cruel reality. All the more, I've always had a knack for finding myself in odd situations surrounded by absolute weirdos so both stories feel comfortably real. If you ever find yourself wondering about the mindset of this odd guy whose articles you read, just blend these two films together and you might understand things from my point of view.

1987: The Lost Boys

Now this is something of an easy year to pick. Granted 1987 did bring us such glories as Predator and Evil Dead II, but for this guy, nothing beats the bright neon board walks and overstylized vampires of The Lost Boys.
Another childhood TV fave, Lost Boys never fails to impress me with it's sheer bounty of style, comedy, drama, gore, greased up saxophonists, motorcycle races, big hair, loud music, classic lines, and I could go on for quite a while at this. Every element of the story is so simple, family moves to mysterious new town, boy meets girl, other boy makes friends with eccentric comic store employees, it just keeps layering on itself like a perfectly balanced horror sandwich. In essence, it's a spooky tale for all seasons or moods.

1988: Another tie Akira and Bloodsport

That's right, it's another tie already. Give me a break, the 80's are looked on fondly for a reason. Consider that a hardcore action junkie such as myself can look at the year that gave us Die Hard and pick not just one, but two other films. Such was the bounty of that decade. I assure you there will be far less ties once we hit the 90's.
Akira has a history to it. Back when my family first got cable we made fast friends with the Sci-Fi channel, which was spelled correctly in those days. Every so often the network would showcase anime like Robot Carnival, Vampire Hunter D, and of course the heavy hitter that was Akira. The first time I saw it I didn't like it. Sure everything looked cool but the story made zero sense to me, the voice acting was lame (the original dub with ninja turtles mind you) and damn was it ever gross. Even so I viewed the movie many more times over the years still coming away dissatisfied yet willing to watch again for whatever reason. One day I was lucky enough to catch an airing with the second dub and suddenly something clicked. I somewhat understood what was going on for once and I loved it.
For what it lacks in character development or sensible storytelling, Akira makes up for with pure balls. It's a massive tale of science run amock, political intrigue, warfare, human evolution, and disillusioned youth that somehow squeezes into just over two hours of screen time. Many have song the praises of the original manga's larger scope and more concise ending but I say nay. For those guy, the movie is all that truly matters.
On the other end of the spectrum yet equally important is one of the essential entries in the Cannon Films library. We're talking about Bloodsport. A film with narrow focus, low class, and more fun than a kiddie pool full of jello.
I see no reason to attempt to defend Bloodsport. It's a delightful experience each and every time. However, I do want to mention an observation of mine and ask that you fine readers test my theory on your own time. During a moderate sized gathering of friends or family, settle in and start watching Bloodsport. Eventually someone will walk by and comment on what a dumb movie it is only to then sit and join you. Slowly but surely, more and more folks will join in much the same manner and before you know it, there's a whole room of people watching and having a great time. Everyone on the planet knows this movie is silly, yet deep down they just want to watch Van-Damme scream and kick ass.

1989 Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

The end of the 80's was undoubtedly the decades weakest offering movie wise. From Batman, to Ghostbusters 2, and even Star Trek V, 1989 was full of movies that could be a part of your life, just not towering classics. One feature slowly wormed its way into my bloodstream over the years. One that happened to mix the time traveling antics of sci-fi with pure Californian stupidity.
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure was never that big of a deal to me as a kid. I sort of liked it, would watch it once in a while though I was more likely to catch the second on TV. Much like Akira something eventually clicked as I entered my twenties.
For whatever the movie lacked in strong narrative, or decent production it more than made up with heart. Bill and Ted were heroes in a time when heroes didn't need to be smart or good at anything. Such was the brilliance on display in their adventures. Where other movies will focus on the best and brightest, this was a story of how humanity would one day be lead into a golden age thanks to two good-hearted dimwits. It's a movie to watch when you need reassurance that you don't need to be smart, strong, or even sensible on your path through life. You just gotta rock on and be excellent to each other.

And that was the first five years of my life in film. Next time we'll move on to the 90's and a few really unexpected favorites. Other than that I plan on having another post up before the week is out. Until then I'd love to hear some of your favorites. What was the best movie in the year you were born? Drop a comment. It'll make ya feel good and maybe earn you a cookie.

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